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Thimphu Thromde has decided that school students in Thimphu will not be allowed to wear tracksuits during assemblies and in classes. The decision comes from a desire to promote or maintain the country’s national identity.

The move has received mixed reactions. Some have lauded the decision. Some are flabbergasted by it.

One question that has arisen from the debate that the move has flamed is whether the wearing of a tracksuit on one school day out of six, dilutes our national identity. Any answer would be subjective and depend on one’s understanding or interpretation of culture.

Aesthetics is an important aspect of our culture and being appropriately attired during assemblies and classes at all times would be a priority for many. Some may argue against concentrating too much on aesthetics and rather on inner values and practises. This perennial debate will never end and it would be unwise to expect an answer.

However, what we can question is whether the decision was made taking into account the difficulties some schools may face in implementing the new rule, especially as the thromde requires immediate compliance.

Another question is whether the thromde consulted with the schools or with parents on what the possible implications of such a move might be.

One of the first possibilities that may arise is that students will have to carry heavier bags to school. Studies are finding that students who carry heavy bags suffer physical ailments later in life. Our students are already burdened with heavy bags and many have to walk long distances to get an education, even in Thimphu.

One way of addressing the heavy bag problem is to have lockers in our schools, which we don’t. Until we do have such facilities in place, we would encourage the education sector to explore ways to reduce the load our students carry.

However, even if our students are able to comfortably carry their uniforms to school, other problems arise. One is where do they change. It would either have to be in their classrooms or changing rooms, the latter of which may be lacking in the majority of schools. When it comes to younger students in the lower grades like pre-primary, will there be enough teachers to help students change back into their uniforms once their health and physical education classes are completed.

One of the possible solutions suggested by the thromde is to designate Saturdays for health and physical education, during which the students can don their tracksuits for the entire school session. Some schools have already adopted such a strategy from the start of the academic year.

However, some schools will face challenges. If the entire school is having their health and physical education class together, there may not be enough physical education instructors or equipment to ensure all students receive enough attention and activity. Concerns have also been raised that there may not even be enough space in some schools for all students to be undergoing their physical education class at one go.

Clearly there is a need for more careful thought on how the tracksuit rule is implemented. It may have to be done gradually and in close consultation with the schools.

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